Passing the torch: La Jolla High coaches share a past


By Tim Rayner and Sarah Devermann

La Jolla High Schoo High Tide

Football has always been a popular sport at La Jolla High School. The Vikings began playing the game in 1924, only four years after the American Professional Football Organization (currently NFL) was founded. Now, the team is finishing its 88th season.

Through the decades, La Jolla has strived to stay current with this ever-evolving sport. When the nation did away with the concussion-prone “leatherhead” helmets quite a while ago, La Jolla followed. When touchdowns became worth six points, rather than a mere two, La Jolla also adapted to the change. But the success and growth of the school’s team would not have been possible without the many coaches who dedicated much time and effort to the team.

In celebration of La Jolla High School’s 90th anniversary, the three surviving former football coaches will be the Grand Marshals of the Homecoming Parade: Walt Harvey, Richard Huddleston and Dave Ponsford, with Coach Ponsford representing the trio at the event.

The parade will take place during halftime of Friday’s Homecoming Game against Serra. The game begins at 6:30 p.m.

What is clearly evident is that these men take a lot of pride in this 88-year-old franchise that has been a finalist in CIF three times and won once in 1993. However, this pride runs much, much deeper. What most people do not know is that there is a legacy of coaches dating back to the late 1940s, starting with Samuel “Walt” Harvey.

Harvey was the head football coach at La Jolla from 1948 to 1953. He then left to go coach at Lincoln High, then Crawford High in 1957, bringing home a CIF championship title in 1961. He retired in 1968.

In his last two years of coaching at Crawford, one of his players was none other than Dave Ponsford. According to Ponsford, who went on to be the head coach at La Jolla for 11 years, “[Coach Harvey] is really the one who inspired me to coach and to teach.”

In 1981, Ponsford, having been the linebacker coach at Hoover High for some years, came to La Jolla the same year as Richard Huddleston. Huddleston was selected to assist then head coach Gene Edwards with the varsity team, while Ponsford headed the Junior Varsity team. When Edwards retired in 1989, Huddleston stepped up as head coach and was assisted by Ponsford.

During his term as head coach, Huddleston took La Jolla to the CIF Finals three times — in 1991 and 1994, winning the title in 1993.

By the time Huddleston retired in 1997, Ponsford was ready to finally take his dream job as head coach. Ponsford coached for 11 years until 2008, when he retired and passed the torch to his assistant, Rey Hernandez, who had been with the La Jolla program since 1990.

This legacy has led to a bigger sense of tradition and pride among the coaching staff, which carries over into the weight room (emblazoned with the motto, “No Pain, No Gain” on the main horizontal beam), in practice, and ultimately on the field.

Coach Hernandez is still the head coach and is extremely grateful to be able to carry on such a legacy. Meanwhile, Ponsford continues to teach history — just like Walt Harvey.